“They’re going to use it to decide what kind of government they want. Get access to healthcare for the first time ever. Connect with family hundreds of miles away. Getting access to the Internet is a really big deal.”
-Mark Zuckerburg on the merits of Internet.org
It’s the 21st century already, but still, more than 2/3rd of the world remains unconnected over the World Wide Web. They live without any internet access. This is a stark figure of over 5 billion people. Latest studies also revealed that about 85% of people without internet simply cannot afford it. They don’t have the money to afford such data plans. Mr Alec Ross, ‘tech guru’ and senior advisor for innovations to Hilary Clinton was recently quoted as saying:
“Whenever we talk about the challenge of ending global poverty, we need to talk about the challenge of global connectivity.
The time has come to connect the world.” Thus, the major entrepreneurs and big businesses have apparently narrowed down the reasons for such poverty and, target seamless internet connectivity as the often overlooked solution. Profession shaping ‘perspectives’ is not something unheard of and no other company in recent times made this, more ‘heard of’ than the social networking giant, Facebook.
Facebook launched the internet.org initiative in August last year with a vision to bring about worldwide connectivity. It essentially is a partnership between Facebook and six other companies in the mobile industry, namely Samsung, Ericsson, Mediatek, Nokia, Opera and Qualcomm. Together, they aim at bringing net connectivity to the two third population still not graced by such privileges.
[ads]Facebook since 2010, has already had deals with various mobile operators worldwide to bring about free Facebook services to all, named Project zero. It was, as it now seems, an initial effort to kick start Project internet.org, for there now comes a fully fledged internet.org application that offers the services of 13 pre determined websites that are considered as a must access by all. This app is presently available to only The Zambian Airtel customers and if this proves successful, then it’ll slowly roll out to other developing nations as well.
The Project singles out the following 13 services:
1) Facebook: For staying in touch with friends, family and regularly updated with the happenings in the world.
2) Facebook Messenger: They facilitate ‘better’ communication experiences among ‘loved ones’
3) Google Search: To search in for information. But further clicking into any of the result links would be chargeable.
4) Wikipedia: To gain knowledge about almost everything and even the internal links are completely free.
5) AccuWeather: Being regularly updated with whether forecasts. Highly beneficial for the farming industry.
6) Airtel: To learn more about Airtel and ‘most importantly’ about the pre paid data packs available
7) eZeLibrary: Information about the government.
8) Facts for Life (by UNICEF): To get quick info and tips regarding child birth, pregnancy, childhood diseases, their prevention and cure.
9) Go Zambia Jobs: Job Seeking
10) Kokoliko: Job seeking, again
11) MAMA (Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action): Information regarding women health
12) WRAPP (Women’s Rights App): For being aware about rights and how to seek redressels
13) Zambia uReport (by UNICEF) – To search for information about HIV and AIDS
Google has already been working upon their very own world connectivity initiative, termed as project loon. As such Google’s inclusion and that too only semi functioning seems really odd. For the above list, Zuckerberg wrote that “We believe that every person should have access to free basic internet services – tools for health, education, jobs and basic communication.” This is a noble stance indeed but it gets a little confusing and a bit haywire too, when Facebook gets to decide which services are essential and which aren’t .Facebook is essential and Twitter isn’t. All this makes us wonder.
All you want to know about the Application. How to access it?
The service is available in two ways:
1) Downloading the official Applications
Customers can download the official internet.org app from the play store, which weighs around 7.8 MB They can even download the Zambian exclusive Facebook for android app where the exact same services are accessible through a separate tab, built within the original app. Although much more convenient, both of these require a data plan initially and most importantly, a supported Android Smartphone.
2) Web page access
Users can even use the browser inbuilt on their androids or even basic feature phones and visit internet.org to start using the services, all free of cost.
Benefits of such an idea
1) There is little doubt in the fact that greater internet connectivity in remote and developing areas will give rise to greater awareness levels, which would finally facilitate development. When people will be well aware of their rights, they would question all aspects of the government and their policies, creating a crucial yet long missing pressure for accountability in them. Thus, an environment optimum for growth can be created and constantly nurtured through regular education
2) Internet would also enable these people to be enlightened about health measures and generate sensitivity about various diseases. They would finally know how to prevent and cure these ailments at their own personal level, a level where all revolutions are fed
3) All humans want to be successful. We all want to be as rich as Bill Gates, as knowledgeable as Stephen Hawking or as powerful as Obama. But we need to know that such people exist, we need to know about them, their victories and failures. Such awareness can prove to house the want to ape these personalities or even topple them, giving rise to Self development and subsequent growth of the entire nation.
Concerns raised by such an idea
1) The major resentment against this idea comes from the fact that neither Facebook nor any of the other six partner companies in internet.org pay or subsidize to make this happen. All the bandwidth that’ll be consumed would be on the personal expenses of such operators themselves, in this case Airtel Zambia. Not all companies may want altruism that is a selfless practice; they may try and force customers, either through unfair restrictions or heavy advertisements towards subscribing to their data plans. And it’s rather unfair for such mobile operators to incur such huge losses and still be expected to function transparently, when other multi billionaire companies just go about making agreements, not shelling out a penny towards the actual expenses that would be incurred in the process.
2) Then there is that other thing about these companies basically now wanting to extend their markets. The market is now quite saturated and progress has best been stagnant for long, thereby creating the need to penetrate into more markets. But since these markets aren’t yet ready, meaning they don’t yet have the requisite infrastructure, it requires for these companies to help build up the economies there. To bump up the purchasing power before they can start with their usual market practices there. So indeed it’s a win win situation for all, but it’s entirely been marketed as a charitable or a noble cause, which may not be a good thing. As it may harm the reputation for such a venture.
The coming years would see Facebook partnering with more and more companies for its Internet.org. Even Google is advancing with its Project Loon. Many other companies are investing in developments that may not necessarily be for today. In the near future, such ventures may re define the way we look at our markets and even in ways we develop products and services. The future of the Tech Sphere apparently has tons in store for everyone. The shaping of events is all that matters now.